La Belle Vie is our regular look at the real culture of France – from language to cuisine, manners to films. This newsletter will be published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to newsletter preferences or adding your email to the sign-up box in this article.
French baguettes have finally gotten the recognition they deserve. With 320 made every second in France, working out to just under half a baguette per person per day, the tradition behind baking these doughy delicacies has now been inscribed in UNESCO’s “intangible cultural heritage” list.
As all francophiles know, baguettes are a source of national pride in France. There are countrywide competitions to judge France’s best boulangers, who have to make the bread en respectant la tradition – using just four ingredients; flour, water, yeast and salt. After that it’s up to the skill of the baker to make a truly delicious baguette, a skill that will now forever be internationally recognised.
Baguettes have been around for a long time in France, but you might be surprised to learn that they only officially got their name in 1920. The history is surprisingly blurry, with some pointing to baguettes as “Napoleon’s bread of war” and others referencing a certain Viennese bakery in central Paris in the late 1830s.
If you attend a French dinner party, you will almost certainly be offered some baguette to go along with your food, where it is is intended to be eaten alongside the main course. The entrée (appetizer or starter) is a course in itself during a traditional French dinner, and you definitely do not want to confuse it with the main course only to find yourself no longer hungry when the bœuf bourguignon comes along.
While it won’t go on forever, French dinners typically have several courses, with time for cheese being one of the most important.
While enjoying a meal with your French friends, you are bound to hear plenty of French – that is in part due to the fact that French dinners are deliberately spaced out so as to encourage more time for discussion and socialising.
The host or hostess might regale you with some explanations of the food on the table – perhaps how it was cooked or some crucial part of the recipe. However, you will hear plenty of other French expressions referencing food, particularly fruits and vegetables, during the moments when you are not holding a fork and knife too.
Food is very important to the French, and as such it appears in the French language quite a lot too.
To work up your appetite for your next French meal, why not consider a bit of cycling? Taking a bicycle around France is one of the best ways to enjoy the stunning countryside, fresh air, and adorable villages – all while getting a good workout.
You may not have known that France has a huge network of car-free cycling paths winding across the country, and the rate of new paths being built and old ones expanded upon is ever increasing. You also do not have to worry about encountering too many steep hills, as many of the bike paths have been put in place of old rail lines – meaning you can benefit from a mostly flat cycling route.
The Local spoke with cyclist and travel website editor Bella Molloy to hear about her favourite seven cycling routes across France.
The reality is that not all of us are cyclists though. If you would prefer a nice stroll, France has a lot to offer in that regard too. One location stands out as a walker’s paradise.
Located off France’s northern coast, the island of Cezembre might not sound appealing at first, considering the fact that it is covered in unexploded munitions from World War II.
But don’t worry – the island opened up for visitors in 2018 after extensive de-mining efforts allowed for the opening of a marked path. With incredible views over the Atlantic Ocean and a fascinating history to match, Cezembre is definitely worth the ‘must-see’ list for your next trip.
Finally, if you are looking for another lesser known method of planning a tour de France, you could consider chasing down all of France’s many Statues of Liberty – or la Liberté éclairant le monde as she is known in French.
That’s right – the Lady Liberty standing tall outside of New York City is not the only one in the world. She has many replicas in France – 12 stand out among the pack, and one is even located on the Seine River in Paris.
From Bordeaux to Colmar, you can find find symbols of Franco-American friendship all over the country.